Traffic backs up as quarantine checks begin

  • Slow road: Traffic builds on Barnes Corner as Checkpoints are set up to enforce quarantines, established by the Bermuda Police Service and Royal Bermuda Regiment. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Lending a hand: Wayne Caines, the national security minister, helps out as the police and RBR conduct quarantine checks at Crow Lane, South Road and Barnes Corner (Photographs by Akil Simmons)

Traffic was backed up across the island after police and the Royal Bermuda Regiment carried out spot checks yesterday for people in breach of Covid-19 quarantine rules.

Queues of cars formed on East Broadway and Corkscrew Hill as well as at Barnes Corner in Southampton as road users and their passengers were quizzed as part of the effort to limit the spread of the virus.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Martin Weekes said: “We’re asking them, ‘Are you supposed to be quarantined?’, and asking them for a driver’s licence, for identification because this is a road check and that’s where we get the power from to be stopping them.

“Then we’re checking their names against a list.

“We don’t have the list physically. What we’ve got is a list on a laptop from the Department of Health so we can key in a name and it will tell us whether that person is on the list or not.”

He said that officers on checkpoint duty contacted a colleague in the communications and operations room, who checked if anyone should be in quarantine.

Mr Weekes said access to the list was kept to a minimum for privacy purposes. He added: “We also ask all of the occupants of the car for their names.”

Mr Weekes admitted the process was “laborious”, but that “there’s no other way around it”.

He said: “This is very much like the roadside sobriety checkpoints. It’s more about getting people to think about what they’re doing, and getting them to comply, than it is to actually lock people up for being out.

“We want compliance, we don’t want to criminalise what, under normal circumstances, would be normal behaviour.

“We want people to see us, we want people to know that we’re out on the roads checking and to start thinking, perhaps I should stay at home.” He added that the checkpoints, also set up on South Road in Paget near the Ice Queen, Kindley Field Road in St George’s and Flatts Village near the aquarium, were about education and advice rather than enforcement.

Mr Weekes said yesterday morning that, to his knowledge, no one had been found to be in breach of quarantine at the checkpoints. He explained that anyone who was found to be on the quarantine list would be told to “go home”.

Mr Weekes added that police would make offenders aware that “their name will be submitted to the Department of Health, who will do a follow-up check at their residence and they may be subject to the fines that have been promulgated”.

He added: “That’s up to the Justice of the Peace that is assigned to that, and that’s the way they’ve written the regulations.

“So we’re not doing on-the-spot fines, we’re not giving people tickets.”

Some residents earlier raised concerns on social media about the effectiveness of the roadside exercises, including claims that their names were not checked against a central list.

Mr Weekes said there might have been “teething issues, but that certainly shouldn’t be the case”.

An update from the Government last night said that police reported that the “community advisory points” resulted in traffic delays “which are caused by people who have no reason to be on the roads”.

It added: “The checks will be completed as quickly as possible, and the public is reminded they have an important role to play.

“If you do not have to be on the roads, stay home.”

David Burt, the Premier, last night said that police blamed the checkpoints delays on “people who have no reason to be on the roads”.

He added: “The checks will be completed as quickly as possible, and the public is reminded they have an important role to play.

“If you do not have to be on the roads, stay home.”

The Government last week cracked down on breaches of the island’s 14-day self-quarantine imposed on returned residents.

Fines of up to $6,000 were introduced for a first offence and $10,000 or three months’ imprisonment for a second offence under amendments to public health law.